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Authors: Donna Simmons

Mourning Dove

BOOK: Mourning Dove
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Mourning Dove

 

by Donna Simmons

 

 

 

For Dea

my beloved daughter

 
 
 

The Lost and Found of

 Love, Respect, and Power

CHAPTER 1
 

 

Sara
watched the pattern of roses: pink, white, and blood red disappear as the
mahogany casket began its descent into the hole. Her tears were frozen to her
cheeks, her hands as numb as her heart. She refused to move from her spot under
the canopy until...until what, she thought. It was unthinkable to leave him
behind.

Most
of the mourners had gone, family, friends, the curious, and two men in black
suits and pristine white shirts she supposed from the funeral home, probably
freezing from the near zero temperature and no overcoats.

“Sara,
it’s time to go,” Ron whispered as he squeezed her elbow.

She
pulled away. Her husband felt like a stranger to her now. Betrayal deeper than
a sexual misadventure, deeper than deceit, simmered just below the surface of
her control. How could he believe the official cop out cause of ‘death by
suicide’? She wouldn’t believe that, not in her lifetime – never!

When
Ron reached out for her again, she turned and walked back down the hill to the
black limo on the gravel path, rigid in her anger, disbelieving in her shock.
Sara closed her eyes and her mind to the very thought that her son was dead.

 

***

 

The
crack of gunfire woke Sara from a sound sleep. Her heart pounding, she exhaled
the shakes from her nightmare, unfolded her clenched fists, and waited for the
strength to slip from bed. Ron’s snoring marked the difference between them.
Somehow he could turn the heartbreak off when he slept.

Downstairs,
with a cup of Earl Grey, she curled into the old rocker by the kitchen door and
waited for the knot in her chest to fade. In her dreams, she could feel her
son’s pain, and his anger, as if his death ended her life, too. In reality she
supposed it had. She felt like a ship without a rudder in a fog of depression.
Restless and undecided, she replaced her nightgown with a clean pair of jeans
and a sweatshirt, grabbed her bag and walked out the door.

For
six months she’d been haunted by nightmares. Sara couldn’t take it any more. By
daybreak she was perched on the rocks of Odiorne Point talking to a son who
wasn’t there. “Damn it, Carl!” she screamed into the sea mist, “You weren’t
supposed to die first!”

 

***

 

As
the sun rose higher in the sky Sara drove the winding road back to the house,
showered and headed for the office of the company she and her husband had
started from scratch. Stafford Sound Systems sold high end entertainment
systems to those who could afford them. It gave him focus for his life. It
filled her days with boring routine.

“Ron,
I’m leaving,” she spoke from the doorway to his office.

“Hmm?”
His response was a delaying tactic not much different than a hand waving a
pesky fly from his face. Sara looked around the chaos of Ron’s office that
looked like the frenzied efforts of a dozen rhesus monkeys. Paper, catalogs,
speaker components, and cabling were scattered over every spare surface. Then
she looked back at her husband. “Ron, you need to listen.”

He
finally glanced up with distracted annoyance etched on his face. “Well what is
it?”

“I’m
leaving.”

“Okay,
I’ll see you later.” He waved his arm in dismissal and refocused on the
proposal he was writing.

“Please
turn away from the computer screen and look at me. This is important. I’m not
coming back.”

It
was another full minute before he looked up again.  “What did you just say?”

“I
said I’m leaving. I’m not coming back.”

This
time he pulled off his glasses, tossed them on top of the scattered pile of
papers littering his desk, leaned back into the black leather chair she’d
bought him last Christmas, and finally focused on her.

“What
do you mean, you’re not coming back? It’s only…” he swiveled around to look at
the big industrial clock on the wall behind his desk, “Oh, it’s past noon. Do
you want to pick up some lunch?  No, you said you weren’t coming back.  If you
need to do errands, take the rest of the day off. I’ll see you at home.”

“I’m
not doing errands. I’m leaving. I’m going away.”

“What
the hell are you talking about?” He combed his fingers through the curly black
hair of his receding hairline.

She
walked across his cluttered office, took a pile of catalogs off a metal folding
chair, and sat down.  Hunched over, her hands clasped between her knees, she
looked up into the warm brown eyes she’d fallen in love with a lifetime ago.

“I’m
leaving,” Sara said for the fifth time, her heart pounding in her chest. “I
can’t do this anymore.  I’ve had enough.”

“If
you need help in the office, hire an assistant.”

“It’s
not that.  I just can’t live this life anymore.  I need to get away.  I feel
like my insides are screaming at me, ‘Run, Sara! Run now!’”

He
inhaled a deep breath and let it out slowly. “It’s just the grief.” He rubbed
his left hand over his eyes, a sign he was trying to ease the tension of an
incoming headache.  “It’ll pass.  I feel the same way sometimes.  You should go
to the support group with me.”

“I
don’t think it’s the grief.  It’s been six months since Carl…” She turned her
head and glanced out the casement window beside his desk.  On the wide sill in
front of it, Carl’s stone stood as a monument to the life he lost.  Just under
three feet tall, mounted on a mahogany base, the stone looked like a miniature
granite monolith. It was a souvenir of their son’s graduation trip to Europe. Crushing pain built again in her chest and her eyes stung with unwanted tears as
she bowed her head.

“Ron,”
she looked up again, “what I really wanted to do was just leave you a note and
go, but I can’t do that, not after all these years.  I’m dying here!  I’m
floundering in a soup of despair and disorganization.  I feel trapped; I need
to go, to get away.

“I’ve
paid all the household bills and the business accounts here in the office are
all up to date.  I’ve called Account Temps to get you temporary help ‘til you
find someone who fits.  They’ll be sending over some candidates in a couple of
days.

“I
didn’t want to leave you like this, but I have to go or I’m not going to
survive. I’m choking on my life here.”  She stood again and turned toward the
door of his office, intending to leave before she completely fell apart.  “I’m
stopping at the bank to withdraw half of the balance in the savings account.  I
need some cash 'til I figure out what I’m going to do for employment.  I’ll
make arrangements for my things when I find a place to live.”

“Are
you seeing someone else? Is that it?”

In
the doorway to the reception area she stopped, “No, there’s no one.”

“Can’t
we talk about this, then?  Why don’t we go away this weekend and try to work it
out.”

“We’ve
tried that before.  And, when we come back everything reverts back to the way
it was.  I need to change my life.  I know there’s never really a good time,
but I feel I need to make that change now. Move away, start over, block the
pain.”

Looking
up at the ceiling, she willed the tears to drain into the back of her throat
before they spilled down her cheeks.

“If
you won’t go to the survivor support group, I can set you up with a counselor,
just one-on-one.  You need to work through your grief, not block it.”

“I’m
sorry Ron.” She walked out of his office.

“Sara!”

Turning
back, she saw her husband, standing with his hands fisted at his side, tears in
his eyes.  “I’m sorry, too.”

She
grabbed her purse from the reception desk and walked through the front door. 
She could feel the sting of tears running down her cheeks, her vision blurring.
She fumbled through her purse for her car keys.  “God, I should have left a
note.”

Climbing
into the forest-green convertible Ron surprised her with two years ago she
struggled to get the key in the ignition.  “Please God let me get out of here
before he tries to stop me.”  Sara could see him watching from behind the ficus
in the front window of the office.  Then she couldn’t see anything at all.
Tears poured out for what seemed an eternity.  He never tried to stop her; he
just stood behind the plant and watched even when she finally drove away.

 

***

 

When
Sara drove out of the lot, Ron wiped the wetness from his cheeks. He walked
back to the reception desk, scanned the Rolodex for the O’s, and dialed the
number of the bank. While he waited, the beat of his heart felt like a drum
pounding in his chest.  “Please don’t let me collapse now!”

“Ocean
National, Lorraine speaking, how may I help you?”

“Hi Lorraine, this is Ron Stafford, may I speak to” he scanned the Rolodex card for the name of
the branch manager, “Dan Weeks.”

“One
moment, please.”

Ron
focused on the ceiling and the pounding inside his chest, hoping his own tears
would clear as he waited for the branch manager to come on line.

“Dan
Weeks. How may I help you, Mr. Stafford?”

“Hi
Dan, my wife is on her way over there to make a withdrawal from our savings
account.  Is it possible for you to close the account for me instead?  I know
it’s highly irregular to do this over the phone.”

Two
minutes after he finished his business with the bank the Stafford white utility
van pulled into the drive. Allen Cook, his engineering and installation
assistant, stepped out of the van with a pizza box balanced in his right hand,
his keys dangling from his teeth, and his black canvas tool bag slung over his
right shoulder.  He turned and lifted a six-pack of Mountain Dew with his free
hand and hipped the door closed.

Watching
him, Ron remembered when Allen first joined the company, apprenticing as an
undergraduate from the engineering department at UNH.  Ron had the designs and
the political savvy to connect with high-end clients.  Allen was the workhorse,
determined to stay at a project until it all worked, no matter how long it
took.  He also had a craving for sugary soft drinks and a hollow leg when it
came to food, but he was loyal, dedicated, and smart.  Ron had suggested to
Sara just that past Sunday that they bring him on as a full partner before the
end of October.

“Hi
Ron, the Snowe job is complete. I stayed until I was sure Mrs. Snowe could
handle the system on her own.  She gave me a fifty-dollar tip.  I tried to turn
it down but she wouldn’t have it.  So, I bought pizza for us to celebrate. 
Where’s Sara? Did she already go out for lunch?”

“She’s
gone.” He watched his freckle-faced assistant continue to shed his load.

“I
got pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms, so we can all be happy.  When will she
be back?” Allen tried to catch a bead of sweat before it ran into his eyes and
placed the pizza box down on the top of a glass display table, almost flipping
the pizza onto the floor.

“She’s
not coming back.” He watched the sweat pour off Allen’s flushed face. “I
thought you were going to take the van down to the car dealer to get the A/C
fixed.”

“They
can’t take it ‘til Friday.  By that time this Indian summer heat wave will be
over, but hey! What can you do?”

Allen
flipped the top off a Mountain Dew. “Sara’s not coming back today?  Is she all
right?  She’s been awfully quiet lately.”

“She’s
not coming back,” Ron said. It was interesting that Allen knew more about
Sara’s moods than he did. “She left me.”

“Left
you?  Just like that?  Just quit the business and left you?”

“Yeah,
just like that.”

Allen
stopped a slice of pizza half way to his mouth. “Holy shit!”

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